Jane Yolen on “story”

I was just pointed to this link: http://janeyolen.com/the-alphabetics-of-story/. Jane Yolen is a brilliant storyteller whose novels I love. In this essay from 2000, she lists, with varying levels of detail, the aspects of story she finds important, organized around the framework of the alphabet.

Some key quotes:

on story “architecture”:
… the most important beginning step is still warming
things up at ground level so you can erect your story over that
important foundation–the theme. For that is what theme really
is–the sub-basement of whatever tale the author planning to

Or, on opening lines and Melville’s classic, “Call me Ishmael”:
But what if Dorothy Parker had written that
line, instead of Herman Melville? Call me, Ishmael. The story
of a woman in love with a man who promises to phone but doesn’t.

Or if Edgar Rice Burrows had written it? Me
Ishmael, you Jane. A story about a feral child brought up by

Or if James Joyce had written it? Ishmael.
Ishmael. Yes. And Ishmael. Yes. Ishmael. Call. And yes, yes,

Or Tama Janowitz: Call me a cab, Ishy.

Or Isaac Asimov? Call me Ishmael-4000B.

Or Maurice Sendak? Ishy, once, Ishy, twice,
Ishy eats fish soup with rice.

Or Ogden Nash: Call me fishmeal.

In other words, it’s not the opening line
itself, but what it portends and what it pretends to be about.

Jane Yolen says SO much more, here (yep, same link) but you need to check it all out for yourself. Seriously. Do this.


About Susan NC Price

Writing coach Susan NC Price has been a poet all her life and an editor for half her life, but only realized in her late 30s that she enjoyed writing all sorts of prose as well. The twin epiphanies of word processing and realizing she no longer had teachers forcing her to use their style of outlining outlines contributed to her late-blooming love of writing. Susan has 1 prizewinning short story, 2 grown writer sons, 3 current e-newsletters she maintains and a host of writing projects to her credit. She's currently working to develop new writers through her coaching endeavor: re/Write: Scribbles to Stories (see Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ReWrite-Scribbles-to-Stories).
This entry was posted in communicating, fiction, ideas, rules, storytelling, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Jane Yolen on “story”

  1. turtle beach says:

    Great information over again. I am looking forward for more updates!

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